by Charlie LeDuff
DETROIT -- What's worse? A short-term riot or long-term anarchy?
Long-term anarchy, you say? Yeah, I believe that too. And so does Detroit for the most part, as far as I can tell. That's what regular Detroit tells me anyway.
After years of being looted and left to his own by the political class, the regular working-day citizen of Detroit is demanding some legitimate oversight of the public coffer.
"It don't matter to me who owns the street lights," said Leonard Holcombe outside the federal courthouse where a jury deliberates the future of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor, accused of running the city like an organized crime boss.
"It don't matter to me who owns the street lights because the street lights don't work," he said.
Not a peep. Not a match. Not a bullet was expended with the announcement that Detroit will most certainly be taken over by an emergency financial manager. So much for the worry of civil revolt.
At the same time, young men continued to be mowed down in the streets. Abandoned houses set on fire continue to burn the occupied homes next to them. Children's futures continue to evaporate into a puddle of mud. That is reality here. Anarchy.
You do hear the legitimate complaints from citizens who feel the levers of democracy have been ripped from their hands. But the most bellicose blubbering comes from the merchants of misery, the connected contractors and the junior-level politicians trying to claw their way to the middle. They say Detroit can solve its own problems. But they offer little beyond false numbers and dubious promises. And they deliver them at news conferences attended by 20 people.
They seem not to see that even the U.S. government is on budgetary autopilot, with Congress and the president unable to agree on what cuts need to be made. But they still need to be made.
Mayor Dave Bing recognized the reality of the moment, announcing Wednesday he will not challenge Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to appoint an EFM. It may have been Bing's first real act of leadership. Still, it was a sucker punch to the city council members, who thought they had Bing's backing for an 11th-hour, 20-minute appeal to Snyder next week.
But if you need any proof of how dysfunctional Detroit politics has become, consider this scene: Mayor Bing sat alone in his office Thursday morning, jacketless, when his telephone rang around 9. He answered it, trying to explain his decision.
"Yes madam councilwoman," he said. "I apologize. I meant to get word out before I went to the press conference."
I don't know if an emergency manager can work in the city of Detroit. If anyone says different, they are lying. But I have to agree with Leonard Holcombe.
"Anything's better than what we've got right now," he said. "And if the emergency manager can at least stop the stealing, then he'll be a winner."
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